"A Merritt Island man who was paralyzed when he answered a dare to do a belly flop in the Indian River has been awarded $76.6 million by a Brevard County jury. Timothy D. Hoffman, who was 20 at the time of the accident on Jan. 16, 2003, broke his neck when he sprinted down a dock in Port St. John and slammed headfirst into the bottom of the shallow river. The former construction worker is unable to move his legs or arms but has limited movement in his shoulders, said his attorney, Donald Van Dingenen of Winter Park. Hoffman's mother quit her job to take care of him. He lives in his parents' converted garage, requires assistance to eat and dress, and cannot use the bathroom normally, Van Dingenen said. His father is a construction worker who has to travel out of state to take jobs to support the family during the recession. A jury late Wednesday in Viera decided that Hoffman should receive $1.5 million for past medical expenses, $89,000 for lost earnings, $21.7 million for future medical expenses, $583,000 for loss of future earnings, and a whopping $52.8 million for pain and suffering. The judgment is one of the largest in Brevard history, Van Dingenen said. Whether Hoffman will collect, however, is questionable. The defendant, C&D Dock Works, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May because of the incident, said its former owner, Charles Brunty. A judge in November 2007 ruled that the company was negligent. C&D was the general contractor on the job, to which Hoffman was sent by a temporary labor agency. Brunty said he hasn't worked for months and could not afford a lawyer, so no one defended the company in court. "There was no negligence on my part," Brunty said. There was a rail at the edge of the water, he added, indicating a potential danger. ...The accident happened while Hoffman was waiting for a sea wall to harden. Accounts diverge. In one, Hoffman's boss and co-workers put up money -- either $10 or $20, according to varying versions -- to goad him to enter the chilly water. In another, Hoffman offered to jump into the river in exchange for the money. It is undisputed that he fell about 10 feet into about a foot of water and landed on his head, breaking his neck between his fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae.What happened to Timothy Hoffman is terrible. However, it's also entirely his own fault and has absolutely nothing to do with the company that was just driven out of business by a 76 million dollar judgment. In fact, any rational person would be left scratching his head trying to figure out what C&D Dock Works is supposed to have done wrong here. After all, it wasn't as if C&D Dock Works was negligent or caused Hoffman to jump off the dock -- it's just that they happened to be the people with the deepest pockets who were tangentially connected to this incident in some fashion. Therefore, they're being looted. There is absolutely nothing just, moral, or even sane about that. However, as long as trial lawyers' unions keep pouring their ill gotten gains into the Democratic Party, this game of lawsuit lottery will continue, and real justice will remain on holiday in this country.
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